'Bin Laden a Huge Jane Austen Fan': Jane Austen in Contemporary Political Discourse
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Jane Austen and & books abound, writes Richard Jenkyns, discussing her readers interest in knowing as much as they can about Austen and her social context.1 Jenkyns follows his observation with a relatively tame list of subjects that might follow the titular and, observing that there are studies of her in relation to food, music, theatre, the clergy.2 Jenkyns is right to notice the Austen and phenomenon. But the habit of such reference to Austen extends far beyond the items listed in his tasteful recitation (the clergy) to the interests and obsessions of contemporary popular culture and contemporary political discourse, where Austens presence often takes the form of an association that may be affectionate or may be provocative. In regular references to her in newspapers, magazines, websites and speeches, that is, a punchy juxtaposition often links Austens name or one of her book titles with something that seems incongruous in what we think of as Austens world.
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